Unions condemn “shambolic” immigration system

© Tim Lezard

Unions have condemned the government’s new immigration system, describing it as “shambolic”. “disastrous” and saying it will “create more barriers for the very migrant workers the country needs to help our recovery from the coronavirus crisis”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Instead of simplifying our immigration system and reducing the barriers faced by migrant workers, these proposals show that the hostile environment is alive and well in the UK. They do nothing to reduce the exorbitant visa and healthcare costs currently faced by migrant workers, and miss an opportunity to rethink restrictive minimum salary thresholds, which are a particular obstacle to attracting many of the professional services staff our universities and colleges rely upon.

“The crude, metrics-based approach being set out shows that this government clearly values earnings over ethics. The system would prioritise those in higher paid jobs with better education over workers who earn less, while many of those we have clapped and celebrated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic would be deemed “unskilled” and kept out of the country.

“Migrant staff and students make a hugely valuable contribution to our education system, as well as the wider economy and society. The government’s priority should be to encourage those who wish to work or study at UK colleges and universities to do so, especially as these institutions will be central to our economic recovery.”

GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “The government’s new immigration rules are descending into an embarrassing shambles and makes no consideration or acknowledgement of the vital job care workers have been doing these past few months.

“The proposed ‘Health and Care Visa’ apparently fails to include care workers and NHS contractors within its scope – and imposes salary thresholds that would prevent most underpaid care workers and many NHS porters, cleaners, and other support staff from qualifying for in any event.

“Who will keep our hospitals running and our care home going when ministers pull up the drawbridge? At a time when care is facing its greatest ever crisis, and with care homes reliant on hundreds of thousands of workers from outside Europe and facing staffing shortfalls, ministers are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

“It’s those who rely on care and their families who now face being punished by this ministerial incompetence. Demand on health and social care is increasing every day and the pandemic has shown just how vital these workers are, yet the government seems intent on keep branding them as low skilled and exacerbating the crisis by creating new barriers.

“The government is piling on stress and anxiety to the high-skilled, underpaid workers who do an outstanding job keeping our country going and without whom we could not simply do without.”

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “​Social care was in crisis long before the pandemic. Refusing to include care workers in the ​new NHS visa is a disastrous mistake that will make ​existing problems spiral. The sector is desperately short of staff and​ heavily reliant on the skills of overseas workers. Recruitment will​ now become even harder.

“Ministers must get to grips with the massive issues facing social care, which only an urgent overhaul will fix. The huge vacancies in care can’t be filled simply by using newly unemployed workers. This shows how little the government understands the scale of the task ahead.

“Low-paid health and care workers also face a massive blow from changes to the health surcharge that will create an unfair two-tier system. Those least able to afford to pay ​will be forced to find the cash upfront and then claim it back. Care staff, porters, cleaners and many others who look after us and keep us safe deserve far better.”

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